Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Many people have been asking: What is this new Clubhouse app, and why should I care?
Clubhouse is an audio-only chat technology similar to a podcast. Instead of listeners being passive observers in a particular room where a conversation is taking place, they can interact and join the conversation. No more wondering what to wear on Zoom or putting on makeup to look your best on Skype. It’s like a dinner party without the dinner while you’re lounging in sweatpants.
Currently, Clubhouse, which launched in April of 2020, is only available for iPhone users in the Apple app store. It’s in beta mode and expanding to include Android users soon, thus creating the perfect hype of scarcity even though it now boasts 8 million global downloads. While giving the appearance of exclusivity, almost anyone with an iPhone, or using an iOS operating system like an iPad, can join.
Whether intentionally or accidentally, to further this exclusive vibe, you have to sign up on a waiting list and hope that someone who is already a member will invite you in. I’m not sure I even know who ushered me onto the platform when I first moved off the waiting list. Invitations to Clubhouse have found an unofficial market online, according to Business Insider (paywall), with people selling invites to cash in on the frenzy.
A friend recently called the app all-consuming, and I can see why. Recently, one night I perused the room scroll and came across a famous DJ and movie star holding court. It was midnight, and I knew if I clicked in to listen to the conversation, I might not get to bed, so I closed the app. Upon waking hours later, I looked again, and there was the same famous DJ, still holding court. The movie star was gone, but he was replaced by other names I see daily on Clubhouse.
During the pandemic, the Clubhouse app may well be the perfect antidote to this time of isolation and boredom. On any given day, I’ll listen to self-proclaimed experts talk about “When is it time to give up on the dream of becoming a music star?” to a silent room of psychedelic medicine experts, all muted and checking out each other’s profiles. Then later I’ll scroll over to a conversation about virtual reality and artificial intelligence. It gives you an instant connection to the outside world.
Clubhouse is a one-armed-bandit — a Las Vegas slot machine. You never know what you’ll get. There is also the issue of a Pandora’s box of all things internet: fakes, hacks and trolls. It’s the garden of digital good and evil.
Still, there are legitimate moments with some of the most visible rulers of the universe at any time of the day. Recently Elon Musk invited Vladimir Putin to have a chat with him on Clubhouse. While the chat has yet to happen, this example shows what’s happening on Clubhouse is real and at a high level. Now being a Clubhouse early adopter, meaning the little “party emoji” that stuck to my profile for the first week is gone, I am more discerning as to where I point my attention.
The great thing about Clubhouse for creatives like musicians, actors, singers, songwriters and DJs, is how equal the playing field can be. Anyone can enter a room to just listen and get industry advice from someone like Taylor Swift’s ex-manager, learn expert Instagram marketing secrets from an influencer with millions of followers, find out how to mix songs from Sting’s or U2’s mix engineer or pitch a startup for pre-seed to series A funding from a Shark Tank-type room of potential investors.
I regularly attend a Songwriting Academy room that runs Monday through Friday and offers advice to both amateurs and more seasoned songwriters. I’ve made new friendships and gotten gigs doing Zoom masterclasses. The networking is instantaneous and can translate easily into the real-life, in-person world. Suddenly I am a good buddy with Joel Zimmerman, a.k.a deadmau5, even though I couldn’t tell you a single work of music he has created.
The bigger rooms can be a bit intimidating and feel a lot like high school, with the cool kids holding court onstage and the rest of us in the audience. I recommend starting with the smaller rooms of 10-50 people. When first raising your hand and being invited to speak, don’t pitch. Thank everyone, and ask a question or add to the discussion. If you would like to connect with a speaker further, follow them on Instagram, and send a message. If you get a reply, or even a follow back, then perhaps ask permission to send a creative work for critique or a pitch deck.
Another attractive opportunity on Clubhouse is simply offering to help. If you are a graphic designer, tell the room that if anyone needs help with a flyer or webpage, you would be willing to explore helping the people who are listening. In other words, see how you can add value to the community and give rather than get something. I start off any conversation with gratitude, and then I tell the room to follow me and that I am there to assist everyone. This wins friends and influences people.
For all the easy reasons to be critical of it, I find myself checking Clubhouse several times a day. I look to see if my newfound friends are online. Despite its infancy, I’ve heard stories of startups finding investors, people finding jobs and even single people falling in love. It’s become so popular in the past few weeks the servers have sometimes buckled, leaving people unable to log in.
Humans are a communal species. We need contact with others. Personally, I am excited to keep exploring the slot machine-type one-armed bandit known as Clubhouse more from the mindset of how I can add value to the conversations and make connections than one day hitting the jackpot.